Several exceptional Southeast Polk teachers have been handpicked to serve as presenters at recent educational conferences across the Midwest. This recognition not only reflects the high caliber of educators within our institution but also highlights the commitment to excellence in teaching and learning. Read about how these six teachers took the stage at various conferences to share their insights and expertise, not only representing themselves but also Southeast Polk’s vision and mission.

SEP Team Presents at Iowa Best Summit

A Southeast Polk team was invited to present at the Iowa BEST Summit to share their efforts to improve student attendance. The reputable team consisted of Dr. Jo Ellen Latham, Director of Curriculum and Instruction; Chelsea Clark, Delaware Elementary Principal; Megan Davenport, Delaware Elementary School Counselor; and Amy Anderson, At Risk Coordinator. The title of their presentation was Using Family Engagement to Improve School Attendance and emphasized how a positive school environment is nurtured by the collective efforts of educators, families, and students. Our team shared how improved attendance goes beyond the classroom, positively impacting the entire school culture by providing examples of how improved attendance contributes to students’ academic success. This session, designed for educators, teachers, school administrators, counselors, and support staff who are dedicated to enhancing student attendance, improving learning outcomes, and fostering a positive school environment, heard a story from an elementary school that showcased the successes and challenges of implementing attendance improvement strategies. Attendees gained insights into fostering an environment that values attendance and fosters a sense of belonging for all.  The team’s goal was to enable attendees to analyze the outcomes, reflect on the lessons learned, and get ideas for their own attendance initiatives.

Feedback from the participants indicates their goal was achieved!  “Great use of examples of tier I, II and III actions to improve attendance. The back and forth about the district focus and how that played out at Delaware Elementary was a great way to share the story. Thanks for sharing this content with others as the focus on attendance is needed everywhere.” “We got some really awesome ideas for implementing during this session.” “Great job presenting and making it relatable for all schools.”

SEP Team Present at Iowa BESTHouse Presents at National Council of Teachers of English Conference

Emily House, SEP High School Language Arts teacher, was asked to present at NCTE after a Coe College Teacher Prep professor, Stacy Haynes-Moore, saw her presentation at ICTE in the fall of ’22. She had been conducting official research on the current state of teaching over the past few years given some of Iowa’s unique challenges and opportunities with issues of censorship in particular. In addition to Stacy, Emily was joined by two other Iowa educators, Nikki Smith and JoAnn Gage. House highlighted the ways SEP has equipped her to feel supported in her career. She was able to compare her perspectives as a student attending smaller, rural Iowa schools in her youth to teaching in a larger district system. The session was attended by teachers from all over the country, as well as a Southeast Polk parent and Des Moines Public teacher! It concluded with a conversation of how different education can be from one state to another, and what we can learn from one another as a result.

Hukvari and Seier Present at Iowa Council of Teachers of English

IMG 5353Southeast Polk High School librarian Michelle Hukvari and SEP Jr. High instructional coach Crystal Seier presented at the 2023 Iowa Reading Association & Iowa Association of School Librarians Joint Literacy Conference in June and again at ICTE in October 2023. Their session, Building Community through Book Clubs, was a reflection on how our Southeast Polk Junior High used optional book clubs to create connections with students and increase interest and enjoyment of reading. Recognizing that the last few years have been a challenging time for many middle school readers, with many students struggling to connect with adults and their peers, many educators are asking how to support students in building relationships while extending their reading, speaking, and listening skills. This SEP team shared reflections on the ups and downs of offering 7th and 8th grade book clubs.


McCoy Parker and Hurd Promote S.T.E.A.M.

Dr. Kim McCoy Parker, 5th grade Four Mile Elementary teacher, has been a longtime advocate for S.T.E.A.M. (Science, Technology, Engineering, Arts, and Mathematics. She was asked to present at a couple of different local events. At the ITEC (Iowa Technology & Education Connection), McCoy Parker provided her expertise on how to Ease Your Way Into the STEAM / Maker Movement – Wanting to create a STEM Lab/Maker Space? This session will explore simple STEM concepts and Maker ideas to get your STEM Lab/Maker Space started. The presenter will share an elementary journey from a blank space to the full implementation of a STEM Lab/Maker Space. Session 2 Topic: STEAM Incorporation Through Multi-grade Level Collaboration – Need help getting started with the STEM/Maker Space movement? This session will share ideas and resources to create cross-curricular and multi-grade level collaboration opportunities. We aim to ease your transition into STEM while increasing educator confidence and engaging students in authentic, exciting work.

McCoy Parker presents at ITEC McCoy Parker presents at ICTMMcCoy Parker also presented at ICTM (Iowa Council of Teachers of Mathematics) on Using Finch Robots and Block Coding to Develop an Understanding of Geometric Properties through Teamwork, Justification, and Revision. In her interactive session, she shared an activity used with fifth-grade students to develop their justification of geometric properties through coding robots. Participants were allowed to engage in this hands-on coding activity to experience challenges and discourse similar to that of students.


Jody Hurd, Spring Creek teacher, also represented SEP at the ICTM as a panelist and shared experiences with teaching math to new and future math teachers.

Hurd as ICTM Panelist

Johannsen Presents at NSTA

Amy Johannsen, instructional coach at Southeast Polk High School, presented at the National Science Teacher Association (NSTA) in Kansas City. The session was called “Creating and Sustaining a Virtual Professional Learning Community”. Jason Martin-Hiner from Keystone AEA, Tammy Askeland-Nagle from Mississippi Bend AEA, and Amy Johannsen from SEP High School collaborate to create a virtual science learning community across the state. The National Science Teacher Association (NSTA) session explained how they have created a successful webinar series that promotes collaboration around universal problems of practice. The webinars are recorded and housed on the Iowa Science Learning Community website. The sessions follow a LEARN, SHARE, ACT format. The LEARN portion allows educators to learn about new strategies implemented in classrooms and coaching tools. The SHARE portion showcases coaching conversations between Amy and Southeast Polk HS science teachers and breakout rooms to debrief job-alike roles and share resources. In the ACT portion participants develop a plan to refine their practice. This year’s problem of practice is focused on Engagement in the Science Classroom.